Port Vila, Vanuatu – The development of political parties that can represent citizens in an inclusive and accountable manner is one credible pathway to a stable and effective political system.
Participants from across seven countries are currently in Port Vila, Vanuatu attending the ‘Regional Conference: Legal and Regulatory Frameworks for Political Parties’ organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation with support from the governments of New Zealand, Australia and the European Union.
The two-day conference provided an opportunity to focus on the link between party regulation, party cohesion and political stability.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, the Prime Minister for the Republic of Vanuatu, Honourable Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas highlighted the country’s plans for a Bill on Political Parties.
“We have withdrawn our broader constitutional reform bill in order to allow us to focus on the key issue of political parties and look to create consensus on the key content that should be included in a Bill to regulate political parties,” said Hon. Tabimasmas.
“I have appointed a Taskforce to do a detail analysis, and to provide a working paper to the Parliament in November of this year. This will form the basis to prepare us for a draft Political Parties Bill, which will be tabled in Parliament hopefully next year.”
Recognising the strength of development partners to assist in this process, Hon. Tabimasmas was grateful for this particular support.
“It is for this reason that we asked UNDP to assist us through the Vanuatu Electoral Environment Project, which is funded by the Government of New Zealand, to provide us with information from the Pacific region and beyond on this important topic as well as facilitating consultation on which measures could be introduced in Vanuatu,” said Hon. Tabimasmas.
By the same token, the New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Jonathan Schwass, stressed that a weak political system can translate into weak governance.
“Fractured political parties with few principles and weak governance are a recipe for voter confusion, and inconsistent policy making, and political instability,” said Schwass.
He added, “The strength or weakness of political parties is not just a matter for them of course. The environment in which they operate, the laws and the regulations that govern them – are critical influences.”
“Well-organised, disciplined political parties with consistent, clear platforms give voters choice. They allow the formation of truly representative governments and of oppositions that can effectively hold governments to account,” said Schwass.
Linking the work of political parties to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Policy and Programme, Bakhodir Burkhanov highlighted the link between political parties and sustainable development aspirations.
“Globally, most Parliaments are built around the notion that there will be a governing party or coalition and opposition parties keeping the Government in check. Within this remit, political parties provide stability in democratic systems, serve as effective conduits of public opinion, and help create an effective government and strong opposition, leading to sustained socio-economic development of a country,” said Burkhanov.
“Indeed, SDG 16 talks of the need for effective, accountable and transparent intuitions.”
He added, “Developing political parties that are able to represent citizens in an inclusive and accountable manner is one credible pathway to a stable and effective political system. Policy regulation is important in this regard.”
However, Burkhanov noted the nuances of political parties and the regulations that govern them in the different countries in the region.
“The legal regulation of political parties is a complex matter, requiring consideration of a wide range of issues. There is clearly no one model that is perfect and can be followed by all countries,” said Burkhanov.
Over 90 participants from Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu attended the event, which was held on the 19th and 20th of September.
For more information:
Jone Tuiipelehaki Raqauqau, Communications Associate – Effective Governance, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. E: firstname.lastname@example.org, T: (679) 3227 552.